(From Clare's article archives, Circa 2010-2015)
"Less is More" With bits, I believe "Less is More". Always, and without exception. I am a stickler for snaffles, "the simpler the better." Also, always and without exception. I put all my horses, no matter what the discipline, in a snaffle. For my dressage horses, or really any of my green horses learning the basics, before they move on to their chosen profession or specialty (Hunter, Jumper, Eventing, Reining, Cow work, Trail, Pleasure, etc), my bit of choice, and the company that I most recommend and endorse, is Herm Sprenger, specifically the KK line.
I know they are expensive, but I promise my clients that they are worth every cent!
I recommend the KK Ultra Loose Ring for all suppling and dressage work, and, of course, the HS Sprenger Bradoon and Weymouth, for the upper level, double bridle work.
The German Silver, I find, is extremely agreeable to all my horses.
But, even if not the KK, in my opinion, any simple snaffle is preferred.
I prefer a copper bit, but silver is fine as well.
I like the Full Checks for the horses that have a hard time learning to turn, and the D rings look nice on the jumping and western horses.
I am fine with the single jointed snaffles, which the western horses seem to like better, but my preference is a snaffle with a link in the middle.
I think the single joint is a bit harder on the horses mouth and has a stronger effect
because of the way it presses on the tongue.
The linked snaffles sit/rest nicer on the tongue and in the horse's mouth,
and are more comfortable and easier on their mouths.
I am not super picky about the kind of link.
I most like the Walnut used in the German Training snaffle,
but am perfectly fine with a French Link as well.
If, for some reason, I have a horse that needs a bit more strength to the bit,
I have gone to a Dr. Bristol.
The longer, flatter link definitely gives your bit more strength. Full cheek, Eggbutt, D ring, Loose ring, all fine. I do, however, prefer the Loose Ring for suppling, once the horse is ready to learn how to connect to the bit and be supple, laterally and longitudinally.
The ring moves, making it easier to keep the horse from leaning on the bit.
I do like to use a "Happy Mouth" bit, when I first introduce a horse to the bit.
I think the Happy Mouth is less offensive to the horse for
their first impressions and understanding.
Once the horse is comfortable with the whole "carrying the bit" process,
I will switch over to a metal bit. I used to think that the fatter the bit, the more comfortable
it was for the horse and easier on the mouth.
I would put my young or green horses into an 18 or 21 mm diameter bit.
However, over my years of training, I have found that all my horses prefer a thinner bit,
I think because they prefer to have "less metal in their mouths".
I now will use a 14 or 16mm diameter.
That seems to make them happier.
I believe strongly in riding even my upper level dressage horses,
all the way through the Grand Prix movements, in a snaffle.
(I was certainly known for that practice during my extensive years of competition).
My horses school all the way through, in a snaffle.
I only go to the Double Bridle because it is required in order to compete at the FEI Levels.
I strongly believe that every FEI horse should be able to school
all the movements in a snaffle bit.
On that note, if given the option in competition (3rd and 4th level in America), to ride in a Snaffle Bridle or a Double Bridle, I will almost always choose the snaffle.
One reason for an exception would be in order to show the Judge that my
horse is happy and willing to go in a Double Bridle.
However, even when riding in the Double, I always leave the curb rein looser than the snaffle rein, thus riding on the snaffle, rather than the curb.
One exception: if my horse is extremely exuberant and
I am doing my best just to hold them together!
(As seen here, myself competing with Hannoverian "Amantiado" at PSG)
When I do need to go to the Double Bridle, I always use a linked bradoon, and the lowest ported, shortest shanked Weymouth.
The same with western curb bits, (which incidentally I refuse to ever use):
the lower the port, the shorter the shank, the less aggressive the bit.
I think curb bits are mean, and horses detest them, no exception!
Back to simple snaffles: I do not like or agree with any kind of twist, Slow or otherwise.
My western bit of choice, (or if I have a horse that absolutely
has to have more bit), is the Tom Thumb.
That is the bit I used when I advanced with my Reining horse.
The Tom Thumb is jointed, so it feels like, and has the same softer effects as, a simple snaffle.
Although shanked, you can choose a very short shank, which is much less forceful.
Also, for a chin strap, you can use rubber to cover the chain,
which makes it that much less aggressive.
Speaking of chin straps, I do not use them with the snaffles, on my western horses.
I don't have any need for them.
My horses go beautifully in the bridle, without.
And that takes me back to my initial assertion: Less is more.
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